Rescuing another long-out-of-print album from the dustbin of history, Svart Records re-issued Winter Into Darkness — with the “Eternal Frost” demo previously released as the Eternal Frost EP — on April 27, 2020, as a deluxe edition on 2CD and vinyl.2 Comments
Now here is a recording I am really quite enjoying, by Lousberg. This captures the spirit of the desolate winter-time, but not in a dreary way. Rather, the elegance of nature shines through. Low drones set the landscape, while tip-toing keyboard patches enunciate the mid and higher ranges. This has a nice balance between droning and suggesting a melody, which does a very nice job creating a virtual landscape. I prefer this to the other black metal I saw on this label such as Goat Semen, which was pretty cool too, since it reminded me of Norz Norz Norz. There is a sophistication to this particular composition, which reminds me of Maurice Jarre’s score to Runaway Train, which is a wintertime classic. Also, the Mosquito Coast, about leaving society for nature, is another majestic score by Jarre that this harkens. It seems easy to the passive listener to create such an album. As a keyboardist myself, I can tell you that it actually takes a lot of inspiration to write an album like this.11 Comments
In his cyclical conception of world histories, the German thinker Oswald Spengler likened the phase of decay that all civilizations eventually undergo to the seasonal onset of winter. In the post-Enlightenment western world, this is in part characterised by the rule of materialism and a corresponding inversion of traditional hierarchy, prioritising the dominant, consuming impulses of the era. What band then, could be more aptly named to reflect the cold and bleak visions of a world declining under even more advanced conditions of the organico-cultural decay that Spengler described, than the Death Metal cult of Winter?
Perhaps the slowest Metal music recorded at the time, Winter’s only full-length album is part crushing Doom of Hellhammer/Celtic Frost-inspired power-chord arrangements, and part ambient dirgewaves caught between broken transmissions of a shattered technocratic infrastructure. This distinct choice of pacing is achieved and explained by the guitar, down-tuned to the extent of coalescing with the register of droning bass-chords. Not the reverb-driven, existential heaviness of a diSEMBOWELMENT, Winter’s guitar tone has more of a hollowness to it, enough to let the bass pass through like a dying heart struggling to pump blood around cold-narrowed arteries, a fading will-to-live in an empty and broken world. The exploration of this particular aesthetic also gives rise to more of the ambient sensibilities that are present in the album. Slowly but inevitably shifting compositions open up to vistas of endless wasteland, picking up the ghostly electro-static interference left by a fallen metropolis, as guitars and bass are modulated in a manner more-or-less similar to Cliff Burton’s famous set-up on Metallica’s instrumental song, ‘Call of Ktulu’, and random radio frequencies are tuned in and out of.
Each element of instrumentation seems to impose itself on the listener in a different way. This is very apparent when being pummeled by Joe Goncalves’ overbearing bass-drumming, which is like Obituary in its restrained tempo but largely detached from such a comparatively conventional sense of tempo. Instead, drum fills cascade out of the distorted noise, as though the foundations upon which modern society were built are gradually crumbling away. The vocals present yet another side to the album, just as imposingly. The rich, guttural voice of John Alman is right in the foreground, sounding full of pure disgust but nevertheless resilient to barren environment in his midst. Lyrics are not complaints of a wounded soul hopelessly trapped within the system that is caving in on him, but observations of a world plunged into darkness and ignorance, in an allegorical, mythologised style that harkens back to an ancient, golden age. If Winter ever did read Spengler, it might be safe to assume that they were greeting a new cycle.